Romans 9:31
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
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(31) Israel, on the other hand, though ostensibly pursuing a law the object of which was righteousness, did not reach such a law. They tried to keep the Law, but failed to keep it, and to bring themselves under its protection. The second “righteousness” is omitted in the best MSS.

9:30-33 The Gentiles knew not their guilt and misery, therefore were not careful to procure a remedy. Yet they attained to righteousness by faith. Not by becoming proselytes to the Jewish religion, and submitting to the ceremonial law; but by embracing Christ, and believing in him, and submitting to the gospel. The Jews talked much of justification and holiness, and seemed very ambitious to be the favourites of God. They sought, but not in the right way, not in the humbling way, not in the appointed way. Not by faith, not by embracing Christ, depending upon Christ, and submitting to the gospel. They expected justification by observing the precepts and ceremonies of the law of Moses. The unbelieving Jews had a fair offer of righteousness, life, and salvation, made them upon gospel terms, which they did not like, and would not accept. Have we sought to know how we may be justified before God, seeking that blessing in the way here pointed out, by faith in Christ, as the Lord our Righteousness? Then we shall not be ashamed in that awful day, when all refuges of lies shall be swept away, and the Divine wrath shall overflow every hiding-place but that which God hath prepared in his own Son.But Israel - The Jews. The apostle does not mean to affirm that none of the Jews had obtained mercy, but that "as a people," or acting according to the prevalent principles of the nation to work out their own righteousness, they had not obtained it.

Which followed after the law of righteousness - The phrase, "the law of righteousness," means the law of justice, or "the just law." That Law demands perfect purity; and even its external observance demanded holiness. The Jews supposed that they rendered such obedience to that Law as to constitute "a meritorious" ground of justification. This they had "followed after," that is, pursued zealously and unremittingly. The reason why they did not obtain justification in that way is fully stated in Romans 1-3 where it is shown that the Law demands perfect compliance with its precepts; and that Jews, as well as Gentiles, had altogether failed in rendering such compliance.

Hath not attained to the law of righteousness - They have not come to yield true obedience to the Law, even though imperfect; not such obedience as to give evidence that they have been justified. We may remark here,

(1) That no conclusion could have been more humbling to a Jew than this. It constituted the whole of the prevalent religion, and was the object of their incessant toils.

(2) as they made the experiment fully, and failed: as they had the best advantages for it, and did not succeed, but reared only a miserable and delusive system of self-righteousness Philippians 3:4-9; it follows, that all similar experiments must fail, and that none now can be justified by the Law.

(3) thousands fail in the same attempt.

They seek to justify themselves before God. They attempt to weave a righteousness of their own. The moral man does this. The immoral man attempts it as much as the moral man, and is as confident in his own righteousness. The troubled sinner does this; and this it is which keeps him so long from the cross of Christ. All this must be renounced; and man must come as a poor, lost, ruined sinner, and throw himself upon the mere mercy of God in Christ for justification and life.

31. But Israel, which followed—"following"

after the law of righteousness, hath not attained—"attained not"

unto the law of righteousness—The word "law" is used here, we think, in the same sense as in Ro 7:23, to denote "a principle of action"; that is, "Israel, though sincerely and steadily aiming at acceptance with God, nevertheless missed it."

Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness; i.e. the unbelieving Jews, who paid great reverence to the law of God, regarding and observing the outward precepts and ceremonies thereof.

Hath not attained to the law of righteousness; they came short of that righteousness which the law requires, which God will accept, and which is to be attained, not by works, but by faith, as it follows in the next verse (see Romans 9:32). But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness,.... The Israelites, the far greater part of the Jews, who were not called by the grace of God, were all very zealous of the law, called "the law of righteousness"; because the matter of it was righteous, it was so in its own nature; and because perfect obedience to it is righteousness; as also because they sought for righteousness by the deeds of it. They very violently and eagerly pursued after it, they tugged and toiled, and laboured with all their might, as persons in running a race, to get up to the law, and the righteousness of it; and yet Israel, with all the pains and labour taken,

hath not attained to the law of righteousness: some of them fancied they had, supposing an external conformity to it, to be all that it insisted upon; not knowing the spirituality of it, that it required truth and holiness in the inward parts; and that he that offended in one point of it, was guilty of all, and therefore could not be justified by it.

{28} But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

(28) The pride of men is the reason that they reject their calling, so that the cause of their damnation need not to be sought for in any other place but themselves.

Romans 9:31-32. Israel, on the contrary, striving after the law of righteousness, has (in respect to the mass of the people) not attained to the law of righteousness.

νόμον-g0- δικαιος-g0-.] The law affording righteousness. Quite erroneous is the view of Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Bengel, Heumann, that it is a hypallage for δικαιοσύνην νόμου; and that of Rückert and Köllner is arbitrary, that Paul, in his effort after brevity and paradox, has used a condensed phrase for τὸν νόμον ὡς νόμον δικ. On the contrary, the justifying law is in both instances (comp. δικαιοσύνην, Romans 9:30) to be left without any more precise concrete definition, and to be regarded as the ideal (comp. also Fritzsche and Philippi), the reality of which the Israelites strove by their legal conduct to experience in themselves (to possess), but did not obtain. The justifying law! this is the idea, which they pursued, but to the reality they remained strangers. If, finally, we chose, with many others (including Bengel, Koppe, Flatt, Reiche, Köllner, Krehl, de Wette), to understand the first νὸμ. δικ. of the historical Mosaic law, and the second of Christianity, διώκων would be opposed to us; for this, according to Romans 9:30, expresses not the endeavour to fulfil the law, but the endeavour to possess the law, as, indeed, οὐκ ἔφθασε εἰς must correspond to κατέλαβε in Romans 9:30, and therefore must simply denote non pervenit (Vulg.), not: non praevenit (Erasmus, Estius, Hammond, and others, including Ewald and Jatho). Comp. on Php 3:16. The reading of Lachmann, εἰς νόμον οὐκ ἔφθασε, which Hofmann follows, is explained by the latter: Israel was set upon fulfilling a law which teaches what is right (διώκων νόμον δικαιοσύνης), but did not thereby succeed, did not become ἔννομος (εἰς νόμον οὐκ ἔφθασε); because the law remained for it, like a shadow, ever only near, but unattainable, thus Israel had not at all come to have its standpoint generally in a law and to live in it, neither in that of the Old Testament, which it sought to follow, nor in that of the New Testament, on which it turned its back. An entirely subjective artificial complication of ideas, with invented accessories, and not even historically correct, since in fact the Israelites stood and lived only too much ἐν νόμῳ and as ἔννομοι, but could not withal attain to the νόμος δικαιοσύνης. This δικαιοσύνης is the tragic point of the negative counter-statement, and hence is indispensable in the text.

διὰ τί] sc. εἰς νόμον δικ. οὐκ ἔφθασεν; answer: ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως, sc ἐδίωξαν νόμον δικ. For, had they started from faith in their striving, they would have obtained in Christianity the realization of their endeavour, the νόμον δικαιοσύνης; through faith in Christ, to whom the law already points (Romans 3:31, Romans 10:5 ff.; John 5:46), they would have become righteous, and would thus in the gospel have really attained what floated before them as an idea, the justifying law.

ὡς ἐξ ἔργ.] ὡς can neither denote a hypocritical conduct (Theophylact), nor presumed works (Fritzsche), nor quasi (van Hengel, following the Vulgate); for, indeed, the Jews really set out from the works of the law in their endeavour. On the contrary, it means: Because their διώκειν was in the way, in which a διώκειν starting from works is constituted; the (perverted) kind and quality of the endeavour is designated, comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; John 1:14. The ἐξ ἔργ. is by ὡς brought into fuller relief; see Klotz, ad Devar. p. 757 f.

προσέκοψαν κ.τ.λ.] without γάρ (see critical remarks), but thus coming in all the more strikingly: they stumbled, etc.; that is the fatal fact, which befell them in their διώκειν, and caused that they οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως κ.τ.λ. Had they not stumbled at the stone of stumbling, they would have entered on the right line of endeavour ἐκ πίστεως, instead of their perverted one ὡς ἐξ ἔργων νόμου. The simple appropriateness, clearness, and force, with which the προσέκοψαν κ.τ.λ. is thus introduced, must exclude the connection with ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ ἔργων νόμου (Lachmann), followed also by Th. Schott (“but, as could not but happen in consequence of works, came to ruin on the stone of stumbling”). The λίθος προσκόμματος, the stone on which one stumbles (trips), is Christ, in so far as occasion for unbelief is taken at His manifestation (especially at His death on the cross, 1 Corinthians 1:23). Comp. Luke 2:34; 1 Peter 2:7-8. The figure is in perfect correspondence with the conception of the διώκειν, and was perhaps selected in anticipation of the passage of Scripture to be adduced. Aptly, moreover, Theophylact remarks: λίθ. προσκ. κ. πέτρα σκανδ. ἀπὸ τοῦ τέλους καὶ τῆς ἐκβάσεως τῶν ἀπιστησάντων ὠνόμασται ὁ Χριστός· αὐτὸς γὰρ καθʼ ἑαυτὸν θεμέλιος καὶ ἑδραίωμα ἐτέθη.31. which followed] Lit. following; and so better.

the law of righteousness] Not simply “righteousness,” as in Romans 9:30; because Israel had, what the Gentiles had not, the detailed revealed precepts. These precepts they “followed after,” i.e. strove to keep as a covenant of salvation. For this very reason they “did not attain to” them, i.e. they failed to reach the true use of the Law—its revelation of God’s will to be followed by His reconciled children, His people justified by faith.—“Of righteousness:”—this phrase may, as often, be explained to mean “connected with righteousness.” So the Law is connected, whether it condemns, acquits, or guides. Israel “followed after it” as an acquitting Law, in vain; and so failed to “attain to it” as a Law guiding in the path of peace. They strove by it to make themselves just, and so failed to walk by it as the justified.

hath not attained] Better (as in Romans 9:30) did not attain. Their whole history of effort and failure is summed up in one idea, and viewed as all past, (though numberless Jews were, and are, still making the same attempts,) because St Paul’s thought is fixed on the crisis of the calling of the Gentiles, after which the case of Israel took a new aspect in practice.Romans 9:31. Νόμον δικαιοσύνης εἰς νόμον δικαιοσύνης, the law of righteousness to the law of righteousness) He did not use the word law, in the preceding verse, concerning the Gentiles; but now uses it in speaking of the Jews; and there is a ploce or repetition of the words in a different sense; concerning legal and also concerning evangelical righteousness. While Israel is following the one law, he does not attain to the other. The apostle appropriately uses the expression, the law of righteousness, for, the righteousness of the law. The Jews rather looked to the law, than to righteousness: νόμος, doctrine, תורה.—οὐκ ἔφθασε) did not attain.
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